Our two oldest started school yesterday! We were told to drive them up to the school, rather than having them take the bus, since this was their first day. There were only four others starting school, and all of them had been at the school before the tsunami and were returning after a year of living elsewhere. So our two were the only new kids; unfortunately we heard that the school lost forty children from the previous year.
The day before school started, we had two children very, very unexcited about starting at a new school. The morning of, we didn’t have any problems getting out the door, but there was definitely fear – dread? – on both of their faces. Driving in the car, we listened to our children’s bible on CD – the story of Jesus calming the waves. We had a lot of calms to fear – this wonderful story seemed to help.
The first period we received a school tour by the vice-principal (the walls of the temporary school structure are magnetic, we found out!). The second period we were ushered into the gymnasium now being shared by three schools for the opening ceremony. There was a camera crew there, perhaps showing the opening of school the year after the tsunami, where so many children in the school had been affected. After the new staff and teachers were introduced, and the principal gave a short speech (focused on the kids being more lively and respectful in their greetings to one another — they had to practice over and over!), the new children were introduced – and had to do a short self-intro. We hadn’t help them prepare for this, but were proud as they both clearly said their previous school name and their own names into the microphone. Then they were led to the back of the rows where their classes were sitting on the floor, and the teachers for each class were announced.
The most poignant part of the ceremony was when the student body (267 children, I think) stood up and sang the school song. I wondered if this was hard for Owen, as he used to LOVE to sing our Fuji school song, and sure enough- as he exited the gym in formation we saw him wiping away tears. But as I heard the voices join in unison to this song, I looked around the room and wondered how we could ever measure the collective pain from this past year represented there. Many of these children lost dear, dear family members; most have lost their homes and all their valuable possessions; a good many are now living in small little cubicle homes; they have all lived through the earthquake and tsunami that they will never forget. As I listened to these voices I had two thoughts. The first – we don’t belong here. We haven’t gone through what these families have. And so the second thought – I could only picture Jesus – who does belong here – hovering over the children, the staff, the teachers with his arms extended in love and healing. I pray that God allows our family the privilege of partnering with Him in his healing work.
This morning as the kids were going out the door for Eric to drive them to the bus, Annie said, “Mommy, I didn’t think I was going to like this new school but I do. It’s fun to be the new kid- everyone wants to be your friend.” (Please don’t notice Mom blinking back tears.) Even more surprising… Owen getting into the car says over his shoulder, “Hey Mom – I think i’m ready to start making friends!”
I’m ready for a new day.